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Old 12-06-2009, 11:49 PM   #101
Pmandrekar
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Default Re: Role of archers in low-tech parties?

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Originally Posted by Icelander View Post
Indeed.

I wasn't trying to suggest that they had no role at all. I simply meant to convey that in GURPS, they are far more useful and less difficult to use than historically.
Agreed. Bows have a usefulness, to be sure. Defending a castle from a siege, for example, where your opponents can't simply advance on your position from behind a shield and start hacking at you. GURPS actually models the Bow in combat to be more useful than it probably was.

A few notes: There are uses for bows in GURPS, but for people looking to build an equivalent archer-type character in a totally realistic ancient (Say, TL2-TL3) party, without the items available in Dungeon Fantasy, or anything Cinematic are going to be out of luck.

If it were more efficient to kill people at range at TL2-TL3, then people would favor the bow, rather than melee weapons. The fact of the matter is that melee weapons are much more efficient at killing at this TL's, which is why so many soldiers had armor, shield, axe/sword/spear. If you wanted to kill someone 100 feet away, it made a great deal of sense to advance 96 feet behind a shield and put a spear through your opponent.

You don't really see the 'standard' soldier equipped with ranged weapons until firearms become available. Obviously, at TL8, the balance is shifted completely towards firearms, and melee weapons fall into the background.

So, Archers have a role, but in a strictly historical low-tech campaign, they're not going to have the killing potential as someone armored and trained with melee weapons.

Scouts, auxiliaries, defense of structures, and a few shots before the enemy closes.

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Old 12-07-2009, 01:43 AM   #102
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Default Re: Role of archers in low-tech parties?

At low tech, archers (and slingers, and other ranged troops), were perfectly useful and a significant component of many armies, but the methods they used aren't really applicable at the small unit scale of PC conflicts, because they relied on area fire, not aimed fire: if you fire an arrow into an area 100' x 100', you have a maybe 1/1,000 chance of hitting a person in that area. If, however, you fire 100 arrows into that area, and there are 100 people in that area, the expected result is 10 hits. Aimed fire against irregularly moving targets really doesn't work well beyond a time of flight of 0.5 seconds or so, which will limit aimed fire with low-tech missile weapons to ranges of 10-30 yards (depending on the weapon).
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Old 07-26-2010, 02:05 PM   #103
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Default Re: Role of archers in low-tech parties?

From personal experience it is possible to get through and through shots on bear and moose with a 60 lb recurve self-bow. In some cases this includes going through bone. This is usually at about 20 yrds or less but I'd imagine with bodkin points it is possible to do the same with most low TL armors at a similar range. Increase the poundage of the bow and the effective range goes up as well. Besides this, I think the most useful point of a bow is both psychological and eventual kill.

1. Psychological - when facing an skilled archer with enough range there is a good chance that you will be wounded or even killed before you even have the option of wounding him / her. This is not something to ignore and it takes a while to teach PC's this.

2. Piercing / Impaling wounds are horrible at low tech levels (not that they aren't at higher ones). Very hard to keep clean, sew closed and then there is the whole issue of removing the arrow. If the head is buried in the victim I would consider him / her dead unless access to a skilled surgeon (rare) or magical healing is available. In my campaign I impose negatives to first aid rolls for these types of wounds (piercing / impaling) and have tweaked the infection rules so the PC's are just as afraid of it as they are of the guy bearing down on them with an axe or aiming a missile weapon their way. They have actually surrendered to enemies that had a high % of missile weapons just so that they might get the off chance of fighting them later in melee.

Bows were the guns of their day and people were afraid of a skilled user (for good reason in my opinion).
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Old 07-26-2010, 04:41 PM   #104
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Default Re: Role of archers in low-tech parties?

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From personal experience it is possible to get through and through shots on bear and moose with a 60 lb recurve self-bow. In some cases this includes going through bone. This is usually at about 20 yrds or less but I'd imagine with bodkin points it is possible to do the same with most low TL armors at a similar range.
I fail to see how shooting an arrow at an animal has anything to do with armour penetration. All of the best-researched tests have concluded that bodkins or any other type of arrow have virtually no chance of penetrating most low tech armour at anything but point blank range (even then it is marginal). Thomas Hulit did the best tests against scale armour. Alan Williams did the best tests against mail. It only takes a modicum of common sense to come to the same conclusion. The most common threat on any battlefield for around three thousand years was from spears and arrows. Any type of armour that didn't provide decent protection against these threats would either have been augmented till it did or it would have been discarded.

Last edited by DanHoward; 07-26-2010 at 04:45 PM.
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Old 07-26-2010, 05:48 PM   #105
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Default Re: Role of archers in low-tech parties?

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Depends on the battlefield, really. In a cave, dungeon or city streets where engagement ranges are seldom more than ten yards, a bow is a terrible weapon.

In open ground where melee fighters have to charge a hundred yards while you stand back and shoot them, it's brilliant. In a siege, where melee fighters simply can't reach the enemy without a ladder, it's even better.

A low fantsy bowman needs to avoid fights where he is at a disadvantage - using scouting, ambush and manouverability to make sure that he encounters enemies in terrain which favours him. They are also useful when the party is attacked by enemies who use these tactics against them.
It might actually work better in forest fighting. Peltasts(or whatever) can get away from heavy infantry. And then turn and resume firing-I-mean-loosing.
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Old 07-26-2010, 05:51 PM   #106
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Default Re: Role of archers in low-tech parties?

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Bows were the guns of their day and people were afraid of a skilled user (for good reason in my opinion).
Massed war bows were the low-accuracy, high-volume artillery of their day, near-worthless against point targets but effective against massed troops and (with fire arrows) structures. Individual hunting bows were essentially varmint weapons, good against flesh but bad against harder targets, and used at near point-blank range in wooded areas. I know of no evidence that war bows were used outside of mass combat, or that hunting bows were used vs. distant, armored men except as essentially improvised weaponry in the hands of guerrillas or murderers. The whole idea of the lone war archer who runs around shooting arrows into a melee involving armored foes is fantasy, really. This is why you need cinematic advantages and techniques to do it in GURPS – although the game is by default exceptionally generous to even realistic bowmen in terms of Acc, Damage, and RoF.

As for fear . . . see above. The willingness to use a weapon of the hunt at point-blank range against an enemy who didn't have his armor on marked you as a murderer or a terrorist. The fear was more of the man than of the weapon. It isn't unlike a modern-day assassin smuggling a pistol into a crowd to kill the President. It isn't the pistol or his skill with it that's the source of fear – were he to stand up at 100 yards and shoot a pistol at soldiers in body armor, he'd just die. It's the element of stealth and the will to get next to somebody and murder him that's scary.
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Old 07-26-2010, 06:28 PM   #107
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Default Re: Role of archers in low-tech parties?

Oh, another good place for arrows: if you have a way to limit enemy movement to a small region, where they cannot reach the archers with melee weapons despite range being very short, archers can be perfectly effective, though often dropping things is even better. The traditional version of this is the Murder-hole.
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Old 07-26-2010, 06:29 PM   #108
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Default Re: Role of archers in low-tech parties?

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Originally Posted by Kromm View Post
Massed war bows were the low-accuracy, high-volume artillery of their day, near-worthless against point targets but effective against massed troops and (with fire arrows) structures. Individual hunting bows were essentially varmint weapons, good against flesh but bad against harder targets, and used at near point-blank range in wooded areas. I know of no evidence that war bows were used outside of mass combat, or that hunting bows were used vs. distant, armored men except as essentially improvised weaponry in the hands of guerrillas or murderers. The whole idea of the lone war archer who runs around shooting arrows into a melee involving armored foes is fantasy, really. This is why you need cinematic advantages and techniques to do it in GURPS – although the game is by default exceptionally generous to even realistic bowmen in terms of Acc, Damage, and RoF.

As for fear . . . see above. The willingness to use a weapon of the hunt at point-blank range against an enemy who didn't have his armor on marked you as a murderer or a terrorist. The fear was more of the man than of the weapon. It isn't unlike a modern-day assassin smuggling a pistol into a crowd to kill the President. It isn't the pistol or his skill with it that's the source of fear – were he to stand up at 100 yards and shoot a pistol at soldiers in body armor, he'd just die. It's the element of stealth and the will to get next to somebody and murder him that's scary.
Samurai are said to have preferred individual aim to loosing volleys.
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Old 07-26-2010, 06:36 PM   #109
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Default Re: Role of archers in low-tech parties?

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Samurai are said to have preferred individual aim to loosing volleys.
The stories about 'noble warriors', whether samurai or others, tend to focus on behavior that is neither practical nor actually present in real warfare.
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Old 07-26-2010, 06:52 PM   #110
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Default Re: Role of archers in low-tech parties?

Actually one aspect of early Samurai warfare was to ride out in front of the line, issue a challenge to someone, and then have a brief exchange of arrows with them. Though, this type of archery is irrelevant to the subsequent pitched battle.

Last edited by DanHoward; 07-26-2010 at 06:57 PM.
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